Review: The history of America in two fun, frantic hours
May 14, 2013
So you think you know American history? If your school's history classes had been taught like Legacy Production's "The Complete History of America … Abridged," you probably would have learned less, but would have had more fun.
Thousands of years of American history have never been so humorously, often incisively, compacted into two hours. Why thousands of years? Because this play begins with the people who came across the Bering Land Bridge to America (one minute), then covers Indian history (four minutes) and moves on to the discovery of America by Europeans (six minutes), the American Revolution (five minutes), the Civil War (three minutes) — you get the idea.
In addition to the hilarious compaction of historical time, there are many funny and clever barbs thrown at various American attitudes and institutions. Listen carefully since some of them are pitched quickly and subtly, although some are made to hit you over the head.
You don't have to know history to enjoy this show, but it can help in "getting" bits of the satire. One of my favorite lines went something like, "You can't talk about Jimmy Hoffa in generalities — his situation was more concrete." Ha-ha. And some of the antics and humor are a bit risqué — nothing your 10-year -old kid hasn't seen nor heard but be advised.
As I've written before, I'm not a fan of slapstick, but when it's done well and isn't the raison d'être of a piece, I can appreciate the practiced timing needed to make it work. The madcap pace and fluid interaction of the three talented actors lend themselves well to the occasional Three Stooges shtick. Alvis LeGate, Jay Barker and Patrick Moore smoothly interact, scream, bump, jump, run, slap, poke and throw pies, along with articulating thousands of words in a barrage of humor combined with occasional true historical information.
Scott Ewing, who helped shape the initial writing of this play by The Reduced Shakespeare Company when he was their business manager, directed this fast-moving piece, creating a visual treat by having the actors romp through the audience area as well as across the stage, change costumes and props continuously and generally frolic through two hours that passed quickly. The zany antics were enhanced by numerous innovative costumes by Libby Bonomolo, creative sound by Susan Mason, effective lighting by Chris Humphries, nicely done musical direction by Camille Cadeaux, fun choreography by Shawnna Frazer and novel props.
Legacy has once again brought us a nicely done confection. To enjoy laugh-out-loud entertainment, see this play at the Off Center Stage, behind The Center for the Arts through May 26.
And as an added delight for opening night playgoers, the audience was treated to a sample of Legacy's upcoming production, an original musical celebrating the hits of the '50s and '60s entitled "I Can Hear Music." With the excellent vocals of Sue Legate, Kris Stepanian and Kristine Alcamo, backed by a four-piece band, this will be a treat. The musical plays at the Off Center Stage from May 31 through June 23.
Hindi Greenberg wishes her history classes had been as much fun as this play — she had stodgy, boring teachers who made her memorize dates and names of which she now has no memory. But then, that might also be caused by age …